MINNEAPOLIS (AP)—Sherron Collins and Cole Aldrich kept Kansas from being bumped off early by the North Dakota State Bison.
Collins scored a season-high 32 points and went basket for basket with NDSU star Ben Woodside, and Aldrich had 23 points to help the defending NCAA champions hold off the 14th-seeded Bison 84-74 in the first round Friday.
Woodside played all 40 minutes and scored 37 points, and fellow senior Brett Winkelman tirelessly contributed 15 points and 12 rebounds to keep third-seeeded Kansas (26-7) from getting comfortable until the final minutes.
In their first season of eligibility for the NCAA tournament after a four-year waiting period following their move up from Division II, the Bison (26-7) proved they indeed play pretty good basketball up on the prairie.
They were within three points several times down the stretch, but the team from the unheralded Summit League couldn’t clear that last hurdle and clearly wore down a bit during the second half.
Starting center Lucas Moormann, one of the five seniors who redshirted as freshman for this chance to play in the dance, fouled out with 5:47 left. NDSU went only 3-for-11 from 3-point range after halftime after sinking seven of 13 before.
Another 3-pointer by Woodside near the 2-minute mark cut the Kansas lead to 73-67, but on the next possession Aldrich rose above the pack in the lane, slammed in his rebound and drew a foul all in one motion. He converted the three-point play, and that was essentially the end of NDSU’s run.
In a tournament still waiting for that big upset, with 12th-seeded Western Kentucky’s win over Illinois the only one that came close on the first day, the Bison gave quite the tryout for the part.
No. 14 seeds lugged a record of 17-97 into Friday’s games, with Northwestern State’s win over Iowa in 2006 the most recent success. Coach Bill Self and the Kansas fans remember the year before, when the No. 3 seed Jayhawks were beaten by Bucknell.
The Jayhawks, despite the inexperience and sloppy tendencies of this squad that showed in defeat to Baylor in the conference tournament quarterfinals, took the court as defending NCAA champions with five straight first-place finishes in the rugged Big 12.
They had all the power, depth and historical prominence on their side, but the Bison had a built-in advantage in the Metrodome’s blue seats. The crowd was roughly three-quarters in favor of NDSU, the sea of yellow shirts and green hats rising and roaring with nearly each Bison basket. NDSU had three players dive for loose balls in the opening minutes and made its first four 3-pointers, giving the fans from the Fargo area plenty to stand up and cheer for.
Kansas doesn’t make it easy to face up in the half court, boasting the nation’s 10th-best field goal percentage defense (less than 39 percent) and the long arms of Aldrich patrolling the post. No opponent reached the 50-percent mark this season.
The Jayhawks forced most of NDSU’s shots from the outside, and Collins—the thick, quick Chicago kid who has assumed leadership of this team since last April—always had an answer for the Bison’s big shots.
Woodside, wearing the same stone face and determination as his point guard counterpart, was every bit as fast and impossible to stop. He blew by Collins from 25 feet out near the 8-minute mark of the second half for a layup he left high on the glass to cut the Kansas lead to 58-55. But within seconds, Collins was pulling up in the lane and getting a jumper to fall to bump the advantage back to five points. Woodside capped the next possession with a pair of free throws, but Aldrich countered with another two-handed, rim-rattling slam to stretch the lead to five again.
(Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)